North volleyball falls in state tourney opener

SUWANEE --Fresh off winning the Area 6-AAAAAA championship, the North Gwinnett volleyball team's reward was another state-ranked opponent in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.

That unfortunate draw eliminated a quality team Thursday night as seventh-ranked Chattahoochee defeated the No. 4 Bulldogs 27-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-20 in the state tournament opener.

"It was tough," North coach Vanessa Henry said. "It was a tough moment, a tough day. But I told them, don't let this one day sum up your season. This was definitely, overall, one of our best teams here."

North (41-7) took an 11-match winning streak into the showdown, but fell into a quick hole after the first game. It was back-and-forth, but errors put the Bulldogs down early.

"That was a tough (game) to lose," Henry said. "We had some serving errors in there and we only lost by two. We dug a hole for ourselves. ... Volleyball's such a momentum sport. When you get behind, you can pull yourself out sometimes. But if you keep (falling behind) all night, eventually you're not going to be able to pull yourself out."

The Bulldogs evened the match with a strong second game, but they trailed 14-8 in the third game and never recovered. They were deadlocked at 14 in the fourth game, but six straight points by the Cougars (24-19) put more pressure on the hosts.

Kristina Stinson led North with 19 kills and fellow senior Miller Howard had 14 kills and 13 digs. MaTia Hughes, also a senior, had 37 assists and 18 digs while sophomore MeKenzie Cronic had 17 digs.

Chattahoochee will meet the Newnan-McEachern winner in the second round.